What if you want to get just one really great recipe out into the world? How do you get it published? Kevin Pang figured it out. He and the owners of Parachute restaurant in Chicago published one recipe as an illustrated mini cookbook. Called The Parachute Bing Bread Book, they created it through a successful Kickstarter campaign. And Pang has plans for more mini cookbooks, with chefs.
The 32-page cookbook covers a recipe for just one menu item that has a cult following. The recipe for bing bread is 5,000 words.
Now, obviously, this bing bread is no ordinary flatbread. (“Bing” is the generic name of Chinese crisp flatbreads.) It’s a round bread with a crispy outside and chewy inside that’s stuffed with bacon, cheddar cheese and green onions and served with sour cream butter. The cooks at Parachute train for several months before they can make it properly for customers.
Co-author Pang works at the marketing firm M. Harris & Co., which birthed and produced this project. He is a James Beard award-winning writer who has written for The New York Times and Saveur. His co-writers are Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, owners of Parachute. To buy the book, send an email to info AT parachuterestaurant DOT com. All proceeds now benefit the restaurant.
Here’s what co-author Pang says about publishing this unusual mini cookbook:
Q. What is bing bread’s origin? Did it start out as a simple flatbread?
A. When Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark opened Parachute six years ago, they decided to have a bread course. They considered a paratha or a roti. Somehow they landed on bing, the broad Chinese term for any sort of crisp flatbread. Beverly remembered tasting a baked potato soup from a restaurant in suburban Chicago, and she thought scallions, potatoes, cheese and bacon would work well in a bread. She made one for a dinner party, and of all the dishes she made, that bing bread elicited the biggest reactions.
Q. Has this ever happened before, to your knowledge, where a restaurant publishes a 5000-word recipe as a mini cookbook?
A. Certainly I’ve never seen it. Maybe that’s why we decided to go with that format. I don’t think, however, that we settled on that length just to fill a word count quota. The truth is the recipe is very difficult to pull off. To properly teach the home cook the recipe, we had to include every detail. Literally every detail.
Q. Why does a recipe need to be 5,000 words? Bon Appetit got their version down to a normal size.
A. Because sometimes dishes are hard to make. It would be like a Parisian boulangerie teaching its baguette recipe in 300 words. You might get 70% of the way there. With all due respect to the Bon Appetit recipe, the actual recipe — the method from the restaurant — has a lot more nuance. We go into granular details, like the hand motion when you’re shaping the dough balls, and the proper protein levels when choosing a flour. I promise you, we made the book as pithy as we could!
Q. Is this teeny book the first one in a series? Will they all be crowd-funded if so?
A. There will be more books in the series, yes. I’m collaborating with several chefs who have signature dishes they want to share with the world. I’m excited because I get to know their secrets.
Q. You wanted to raise $9500 to pay for the mini cookbook on Kickstarter. Instead you three raised over $30,000. That’s amazing! Why do you think it was so successful?
A. We began this project pre-pandemic, but the timing seemed to have resonated amidst this terrible situation. People are looking to stay at home and kill time. They’re looking for cooking projects. They have a deep desire to bake. And if you’ve been to Parachute, you certainly want to know how to make that dish. It’s all those reasons, I think.
Q. If you don’t mind, what happened to the extra $20,000+ that resulted because you exceeded your goal?
A. Kickstarter takes 10%, first of all. Then there are the tax obligation. Then there is the copy editor, the designer, the illustrator, the printer — those expenses have to be accounted for.
A significant portion goes towards shipping and handling. That includes the postage, the cardboard envelopes, the stickers and postcard we include, the label maker, the labels, and the service fee to the shipping company.
So there’s not really a lot left. Long story short: Some of that money went into buying more copies for the restaurant to have on hand, and whatever is left, the restaurant keeps. Really, that’s the whole motivation with this project.
When it came to cookbooks created through the traditional publishing industry, authors and cooks were getting the short end of the stick. I wanted to make the pay structure more equitable for us, and that’s why we D.I.Y.’d it.
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